Nelson Mandela was considered a man of courage and character, but did you know that he was also considered a terrorist in the United States until 2008? Yes, the heroic civil rights leader unfortunately did not have the best relationship with the United States and remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008.
During the Reagan administration, communism was still viewed as a threat to the United States government making it a goal to defeat communism. This was at the height of the apartheid regime in South Africa which complicated international relations between the U.S. and South Africa.
In 1986, Reagan accused the African National Congress of encouraging communism and in 1989, the ANC was dubbed a “terrorist group.” As a result, Mandela remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list until 2008.
During the last year of George W. Bush’s administration, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told a senate committee that her department had to issue waivers for NAC members to travel to the United States.
“This is a country with which we now have excellent relations, South Africa, but it’s frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela,” Rice said.
The terrorist designation was dropped later on that year after a bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bush.